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John Y. Swaur, the only survivor of the party who came in 1837, now lives on the north side of the Grove, where he, with his sons, McDonald, William and George, have by their industry and discretion in raising and feeding stock, risen from poverty to affluence, and become the possessors of fine large tracts of land and fine herds of stock.
In evidence of the above fact, it may be here stated, that in this centennial year they gave the assessor the largest personal property list in Salt creek township, where many large lists are made.
Among the early settlers may also be named George H. Short, who settled and improved a farm, adjoining the Hagan's place, where he now resides, but owing to ill health for many years, has remained closely at home; and, also, Jonathan M. Logue, familiarly called Uncle "Jot," whose name has long been familiar to the inhabitants of Big Grove; Eli H. Sikes, who came to the Grove with the Virgins, when he was quite a youth, and settled on the north side of the Grove, married a daughter of Wm. Warnock, Sen., and died in 1868, leaving a widow and several children in affluent circumstances, the result of his industry, and the inheritance of his good name. Suplina Judd, best known as "Squire Judd," figured with, and for, considerable notoriety for several years on account of his judicial character.
Coming down to the present time, there are but few persons remaining that lived about Big Grove twenty-five years ago. John Y. Swaur and family, before named, E. E. and J. W. Virgin, sons of Abram Virgin, Edmund E., son of Eli Auxier, Robert A., son of Austin P. Melton, and Ludwig and Wm. L., sons of Granville Davis, are the only ones remaining of the original settlers and their descendants. While the place will compare favorably with any locality in the west for health, many have died; but make the same review of the changes wrought in twenty-five years, and the numbers who have died are below an average mortality. Since, the neighborhood has become somewhat isolated, being five miles from a railroad station, Big Grove, though possessing comparatively less notoriety than in former times, yet these early settlers have been succeeded by a class of unpretending citizens, that for industry, intelligence and prosperity will compare favorably with any part of the State, and consequently of the world.
Among the present inhabitants of the neighborhood of Big Grove, in addition to those above named, are Cortes Hume, Wm.
F. Auxier, Wm. P. and John R. Falkner, John Hill, George Lumpee, H. C. Burnham, J. A. Hendrickson, J. H. Varnholt, Wm. Brown, Aaron Werner, Michael Malony, John McCarty, A. A. Blunt, and others.
The social habits of the place have of course changed in the last fourth of the century. While the present inhabitants are eager for the daily papers, lest their interests may be affected by the "spring” or “decline” in the "hog market," the pioneers were content with mails once a week, or less frequently during bad weather or high water. Yet they had their social enjoyments, and it is with no regret that we remember listening to their discussions of the respective merits of “gourd seed” and “flint” corn, or the prominent points of a favorite "coon dog."
The old "timber school house," long since removed but still remembered, “Though lost to sight, to memory dear,” as the place where the people of the eastern part of the county went to vote, and the spirited” manner in which elections were sometimes conducted, their opinions being sometimes defined, and arguments enforced by physical as well as logical means, yet they never dreamed of the crookedness of some of the political combinations of the present day.
Where now stretch the broad farms of those we have named, the writer has seen growing prairie flowers,
Side by side, graceful, affianced, destined to meet and unite
offspring the ground. And now, with a separate life, swells proudly each little shoot,
, While veiled in its sheltering womb lies secret the germ of the
fruit, As ey sink to the earth, one by one, the seed of another is
sown; And so the great whole, as the parts, live a life of their own.
Among the first settlers in Lynchburg township was Nelson Abbey, in the year 1837. He built a log cabin near where the village of Sny Carte now stands, which is supposed to have been the first house in Lynchburg township. During the next year William Rodgers settled near, and was soon followed by John
Rodgers, his brother. There also came, in 1838, Amos Smith, Sr., with his sons, Amos, Jr., and B. F., who settled in the same vicinity. Then came John Camp and Richard J. Phelps. Then William Davis, James D. Reeves and George W. Phelps, all making a settlement in a radius of about four miles. Amos Smith, Sr., died in the fall of 1841. Amos Smith, Jr., was elected Magistrate for Linchburg precinct, on the first organization of Mason county, the
year, which office he continued to hold until his death, in 1851. He was also a county commissioner on the first organization. B. F. Smith, before named, engaged in farming and carpentering, accumulated a fine property, and died. March, 1867. His only surviving descendant, Benjamin B. Smith, resides on the old farm. The Smith family emigrated from Rochester, Windsor county, Vermont.
Most of the early settlers of Linchburg came west poor, and the trials and hardships of improving new farms on these frontiers were very great without the accustomed conveniences of the east. It was common to walk several miles and back, in the wet
before breakfast, to get up the oxen for the plow.
Their milling was done at Sugar creek, in Schuyler county; on Spoon river, in Fulton; Painter creek, in Cass county; and, in later years, at Quiver, in Mason county.
This locality also suffered severely from chills and fever, which was no respecter of persons.
To describe the early elections of Lynchburg would be to repeat what we said on the preceding pages on the early elections of Salt creek, that their arguments were more forcible than elegant, but always conducted with energy. (See biography of M. A. Smith.)
FOREST CITY. Forest City is situated on the Peoria, Pekin and Jacksonville Railroad, and laid out at the time of its first construction, and is seventeen miles from Pekin and thirteen from Havana. It was in what was originally Mason Plains precinct, but by an act of the Board of Supervisors, in 1873, it was changed to Forest City township. The original town plat was purchased by Walker, Kemp, Waggenseller and Wright, in Havana, and surveyed in 1859. D. S. Broderic purchased forty acres of W. R. Nikirk, and in 1866 had the same surveyed as Broderic's addition to Forest City. The town is favorably situated, geographically, for a fine commer
cial centre of as rich an agricultural region as the county affords, and has a fine trade in all departments usual in country towns.
The growth of Mason City deducted from its trade on the east, and points on the I., B. and W. R. R. did the same on the south, but this was more than compensated for by the very rapid improvement of its immediate vicinity. The present population is about two hundred.
The first business house was built by A. Cross & Co.; the second by E. T. Nikirk. There is, in addition to the above, G. W. Pemberton, family groceries, T. A. Gibson, hardware and grain dealer, J. Miller, dealer in grain, V. H. Maxwell, family groceries, John Gavin, family groceries, Limbach & Maxwell, dry goods and groceries, Patrick Kane, family groceries, Eli T. Nikirk & Son, agents for the P., P. and J. Railroad, and F. M. Ellsworth, blacksmith, (and the first in the place, and others, whose names we did not reach. The physicians of Forest City are Drs. James S. Walker and G. S. Mosteller, both very competent and educated members of their profession. (See biography of Walker family.)
Among the first settlers of this locality were Mr. Nikirk and John Bowser, both of Seneca county, Ohio, who located here twenty-three or four years ago. Mr. Nikirk purchased the entire
landed estate of W. G. Green, now of Menard county, Illinois. The purchase was made in 1852, and in 1855 Mr. Nikirk died, leaving nearly two thousand acres of land to his family. Twenty years afterwards Elizabeth, his widow, died, leaving her children pleasant and comfortable homes, nearly all in sight of the old homestead.
The Nikirk sons are among the most substantial farmers and business men of that vicinity, and it is with great personal gratification that we here record them all pleasant, genial gentlemen, whose acquaintance we have ever valued, and whose sociability and hospitality we ever appreciate.
Mr. Bowser is residing on the farm first purchased, in affluent circumstances, a most substantial citizen, possessed of many broad acres of rich land within sight of his pleasant home, surrounded by all that makes life desirable, and that contributes to human happiness. We have had a personal acquaintance with Mr. Bowser for nearly thirty-five years. On that acquaintance, we must say, we have only known him as a neighbor, a gentleman and friend.
The business directory of Forest City is as follows: J. Jackson, Justice of the Peace; M. Gordon, also Justice of the Peace; W. S.
Reed and B. Heicks, Constables. We also note among her prominent mechanics: J. A. Beard, builder and contractor; J. Jackson, carpenter; T. G. Onstot, dealer in lumber, lime, cement, etc. The substantial character of the business men of Forest City, and it being the centre of a rich agricultural region, enjoying a fine local trade, it bids fair to hold its present prominent position in the business interests of Mason county.
A statement of the property assessed and taxes charged in Mason county for the year 1853: Articles. ,
$99,862 00 Neat cattle...
5,052 53,114 00 Mules and asses..
170 7,400 00 Sheep ..
1,880 1,879 00 Hogs..
7,965. 15,387 00 Carriages and Wagons.
959 29,105 00 Clocks and watches..
4,110 00 Merchandise....
42,015 00 Manufactured articles..
1,850 00 Moneys and credits....
109,817 00 Unenumerated property..
39,161 00 Aggregate.
$399,730 00 Deductions..
$1,365,032 20 The following statement of the amounts of corn and wheat raised in this county in 1853, is the aggregate from the A'ssessor's lists: Number of bushels corn in 1853...
.1,158,400 Number of bushels wheat in 1853...